Borderlands 3 ially, unequivocally upon us, and it improves on pretty much every part of the Borderlands formula that we know and love. It does everything a Borderlands game should do, while also introduceing an incredible new system for engaging with your streaming audience (if you’re into that).
From letting viewers rifle around in your backpack, check out your skill tree, and even have a chance to share in the looty-goodness of Pandora and the rest of the planets, Borderlands 3 does streaming integration at an absolute *chef-kiss* level.
Borderlands has always been best when shared with others. I have countless hours of fond memories playing Borderlands 2 with my group of friends, running the same missions over and over, being the first to find out about the Minecraft Easter egg and taking the squad on a journey to find it in Caustic Caverns, and building up our characters and arsenals through joy of loot.
Watching live streams is another excellent way to share a gaming experience, but it’s mostly passive. Generally speaking, interaction between a streamer and their viewers has been locked in the chat window. It can be thrilling to have your question answered 30 seconds after you ask it in a live stream, but by and large, that’s where the interaction ends.
That’s what makes the promise of the ECHOcast so, well, promising. If you’re unfamiliar with the Twitch ECHOcast extension, here’s the low-down: you add it to your Twitch account and link it to your Gearbox SHiFT account. From there, you watch streamers on Twitch and when they find loot, you have a chance at scoring rare loot of your own. It’s so simple, yet so genius.
Looting your vanquished foes is arguably the best part of Borderlands, particularly when you open a chest after a hard-fought battle and find its contents glowing purple and orange. Even a relatively common green glow elicits some sort of primal response in the pleasure centers of your brain. What Borderlands 3 and the ECHOcast extension have done is turn that reward system into a shared experience.
Red chests can be found throughout Borderlands 3, and they’re unmistakably different from the chests you’re used to seeing in other Borderlands games. For one, they’re very obviously red. For another, the style of the chest depends on its planetary location. Inside these Borderlands 3 red chests is a world of lootable delight, and if you’re watching your favorite streamer open one, and you have the extension installed, you have an opportunity to win some incredible loot of your own.
When a streamer finds a Borderlands 3 red chest, you have half a minute — literally 30 seconds — to opt into the event. Then, it’s left to luck: not everyone who opts in is going to win the rare loot. For someone looking to build viewership, this could be a real boon. If you stream Borderlands 3 consistently, loot-hungry viewers are going to seek you out for a chance to win that sweet, sweet, cheap-as-free loot. Those red chests are more than just a reward for beating a powerful boss — they’re helping you build an audience.
But that’s just part of the equation (though it’s a pretty major one). Another is that, as a viewer, you can browse the skill tree and inventory for whatever BL3 player you’re watching to see their character build, which is a great way to learn more about the game and try and how to emulate your favorite streamers’ play styles. Instead of losing your “what gun is that?” question in a torrent of comments on a busy stream, you can answer the question for yourself. As the game matures, there are bound to be specialized loadouts that players develop, ones offering genuinely unique play styles, that you can see at a glance by watching someone playing on Twitch, or that you can show off your own configurations to your subscribers.
What I find most amusing about the entire ECHOcast integration is its implementation into a game where the main villains… are essentially evil streamers. It doesn’t break the fourth wall, but there’s definitely a crack and some chipped plaster.
It still remains to be seen just how well this works for everyone when Borderlands 3 releases widely on September 13. Gearbox tested the system for its May 1 Gameplay Reveal event on Twitch, and anyone with a SHiFT account linked to Twitch could participate and it gave people their first look at the skill trees in Borderlands 3.
The implementation is pretty exciting for the future of streaming, and i.,t It benefits pretty much everyone involved. Viewers get rewarded with the chance to win cool loot, streamers get rewarded with an attentive and potentially larger audience, and the culture surrounding the game is boosted by all the excitement. Going forward, games will no doubt come up with even more novel and compelling functionality for streamers and audiences. With such a high-profile game adding this sort of integration, we’re bound to see this become the norm. The best part is everyone wins. Well, except people who don’t win the rare loot… but they can always try again., but I was speaking iIn the broader sense,.tt I it creates a positive experience for all involved parties, and that’s just nice to see in 2019.